Dr Marta Vignola

Published: 21 August 2019

Water Engineering and Microbial Ecology

Dr Marta Vignola marta.vignola@glasgow.ac.uk

School of Engineering

Type of fellowship: Royal Academy of Engineering

Area of Research: Water Engineering and Microbial Ecology

Why did you choose to pursue a fellowship in your research career?

I carried out my PhD at Newcastle University within an International Training Network (ITN) funded by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions programme. This ITN connected several universities across Europe; it was a really intense programme with regular training and networking activities for its PhD fellowsDuring one of these workshops we were asked to think about a new research project and write an application in 24h! I really enjoyed the whole process of thinking, researching and pushing myself to develop new ideas. So, I started early on to think about my own independent career. After my PhD, I came to Glasgow for a post-doc and here I found a very stimulating and supportive environment; I was able to apply for small funding pots within the University to enlarge my network and start developing some of my ideas. It felt that the natural step for me was to apply for a fellowship scheme as it gives me the freedom to pursue my own projects.

Why work at the University of Glasgow?

During my post-doc experience in Glasgow, I found a great environment with support available within my group and across the College. I took any chance I could to further develop as a researcher, for example applying for small grants. It gave me a chance to bloom and learn new skills. I felt it was the right place to continue working. I’m just at the very beginning of my fellowship and I’m excited to take those first steps as an independent researcher.

How would you describe your research in 20 words or less?

I am engineering mixed microbial communities to sustainably remove pollutants from water

What is your research highlight?

Recently I have organised a workshop that has seen the participation of 12 researchers from several universities in low- and middle-income countries. It was my first experience in applying for and managing a research budget. The workshop was as success; researchers felt that they could really use the new knowledge they acquired. It felt very nice to hear them thanking me for what they have learnt and for the nice experience they had in Glasgow.

What do you look for in a collaboration?

I look for someone who will complement my skills and bring something to the project that is needed. I really enjoy working within a multidisciplinary group and I feel that a research project works best when the problem is tackled via different routes, especially when it comes to develop new engineering solutions. Trust, reliability, being responsive and enthusiastic are all fundamental qualities in a collaborator.

How do you see your research impacting society?

Through my research I wish to develop innovative, low-cost, sustainable technologies for water treatment; this will help maintain our affordable access to clean and safe drinking water. I also want to further our knowledge on the mechanisms lying behind the assembly of specialised biofilms that might provide invaluable opportunities for future research applications relying on engineered microbial communities (water and food industry; medical applications etc).

What next?

I’ve just started this fellowship, but my goal is to grow my own research group and learn more about project and people management. My long-term dream is to open-up water engineering towards other disciplines; microbial ecology in particular. I also want to develop low cost, low energy technologies for environmental applications, as many of the world’s challenges will need to be met in under-resourced areas around the world.

First published: 21 August 2019